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Highwayman by Paddy McAloon and Jimmy Webb

One of my favourite musical discoveries of 2017 has been the solo catalogue of Jimmy Webb. While his 1970s albums are a little scattershot, there are plenty of examples of his harmonically complex but accessible songs. Along with his contemporaries Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, Webb has the talent of building intricate chord structures into catchy pop songs.

Webb was always known as a notable songwriter, fluent pianist, and limited singer, but time did wonders for his voice. By this 1991 live recording, it’s thickened it into an authoritative growl that’s an ideal coupling for Paddy McAloon’s boyish tenor.

McAloon’s a long-time fan of Webb, stating in an interview that “The first record that really made me love music was ‘Wichita Lineman’”, and ‘The Songs of Danny Galway’ from 2014’s Crimson/Red is about Webb.

With his acoustic guitar picking and moustache, McAloon is just about channelling James Taylor, while the pair are backed by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, playing George Martin’s arrangement from Webb’s 1977 album El Mirage.

While not quite as well known as ‘Wichita Lineman’, the song’s still a durable favourite, notable for its version by the country super-group The Highwaymen, comprising of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. But this live version brings out the beauty of the song, with Webb and McAloon’s beautiful singing.

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